Consider more frequent forklift operator evaluations

Date Posted: 06/19/2019

Forklift OperatorsShould you train employees before they have an accident, or after they have one? Training should prevent accidents, yet even with proper training, accidents sometimes happen. When they do, you'll likely identify a need for additional training. However, identifying and addressing behaviors likely to cause an accident could help prevent an accident.

Because a forklift can weigh several tons, and carry a few tons more, operators have the potential to cause serious injuries or significant property damage. Operators must be trained, evaluated, and re-evaluated at least once every three years. In addition, refresher training may be needed if (among other things) the operator is observed operating in an unsafe manner, or if the operator is involved in an accident or near miss.

Post-accident refresher training?

If you've delivered refresher training following an accident, but never delivered it because an operator was observed doing something unsafe, perhaps the observation program is lacking. Unsafe operating behaviors contribute to many accidents, so failing to identify and address those behaviors means missing an opportunity to prevent an accident.

If you've never had to deliver refresher training, that should mean all your forklift operators follow all the safety rules 100% of the time — never taking shortcuts, never going too fast, and handling only stable loads. That is an ideal situation, of course, but it's possible that unsafe behaviors are either not seen or not reported.

Who observes and reports?

While refresher training must be provided when the operator was observed operating in an unsafe manner, the regulation doesn't clarify who makes and reports that observation. If a near miss wasn't reported, you'd never know about the need for refresher training.

To some extent, you may rely on the operator’s coworkers and supervisors to report concerns. This would, however, require those coworkers and supervisors to both understand the rules for safe operator so they know what to watch for, and actually report any problems. If either element is missing, unsafe behaviors will continue to go unreported — and continue to pose a safety risk. Make sure everyone knows what to watch for, and knows to report any problems (e.g., if the operator failed to sound the horn at an intersection).

While you must conduct evaluations every three years, an operator who knows the rules and knows he's being evaluated will probably be on his best driving behavior. Consider walking the plant occasionally to spot check for problems. Checking each operator even once a month could identify unsafe driving habits, and those behaviors could then be addressed before an accident happens.


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